The Pequod Review:
The plot is a simple: a nameless middle-aged man sits in a New York City bar and recounts a devastating love affair. But Hayes has an observant eye and stunning prose. Here is his description of NYC: “not so much a city as a giant apparatus, a machine that required an island to house it.” During a heat wave, “you could almost hear the stretched human nerve snap. The city had become, once more, impossible.” And later he describes towels in a hotel bathroom that are “not quite clean and never entirely dry,” and stockings suspended from the curtain rods “as limply as hanged men.”
Here is the narrator describing his memories of lost love:
There were times when I would forget her, though they were rare, and it would be for a time as though she had never existed; and then some passing girl’s inadvertent gesture, or an accidental profile, or a hat like hers, would restore her, and restore the suffering too, and I would long again, somehow, to encounter or to see her.
And here is the narrator toward the end of his story:
I’ve often wondered why I impress people as being altogether sad, and yet I insist I am not sad, and that they are quite wrong about me, and yet when I look in the mirror it turns out to be something really true, my face is sad, my face is actually sad, I become convinced (and he smiled at her, because it was four o’clock and the day was ending and she was a very pretty girl, it was astonishing how gradually she had become prettier) that they are right after all, and I am sad, sadder than I know.
I was often reminded of the best work of Christopher Isherwood. Highly recommended.